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Doris Lee Celebrates Life's Small Pleasures at D. Wigmore Fine Art
Doris Lee, Little Souvenirs, 8 x 10 inches, oil on canvasboard. Photo: Courtesy D. Wigmore Fine Art.

NEW YORK, NY.- Doris Lee (1905-1983) Celebrates Life’s Small Pleasures highlights the artist’s career from 1936 through the 1950s with 42 works. Visitors to the exhibition will see a full range of Doris Lee’s subjects - landscapes, genre scenes, still lifes, portraits – in oil, gouache, pastel, and collage. Lee’s style developed through a unique fusing of Regionalism, folk art, and abstraction. Her subjects came from everyday small pleasures experienced in New York City, Woodstock, Florida, and her travels through the South.

Born in Aledo, Illinois, Doris (née Emrick) Lee was educated in Illinois, graduating from Rockford College in 1927. Lee first studied art in Italy and France before studying at the Kansas City Art Institute with Ernest Lawson in 1929 and at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco in 1930 with Arnold Blanch, who she later married. Lee returned to Paris to study with Cubist André Lhote in 1930.

In the 1930s Lee began to exhibit at prestigious institutions such as the Worcester Art Museum, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Whitney Museum of American Art (1932 1951). The Art Institute of Chicago’s purchase of Thanksgiving Dinner in 1935 and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s purchase of Catastrophe in 1937 were followed by the sale of Country Wedding in 1942 to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Fisherman’s Wife in 1945 to the Cranbrook Art Museum.

Doris Lee settled in Woodstock in 1931 and maintained a studio in New York City at 30 West 14th Street. She was a vital part of the Woodstock art colony and a frequent host to other artists. A 1938 Life magazine article on the Woodstock art colony showed a photograph of Lee hosting a card game with Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Eugene Speicher, and Emil Ganso. After her marriage to Arnold Blanch, the couple spent summers in Woodstock and in the winter took trips through Florida ending in Key West. Lee was artist-in-residence at many art schools, including: Colorado Springs Fine Art Center (1936-1939); Michigan State College (1943-1944); and Florida Gulf Coast Art Center. Lee regularly exhibited in New York at museums and galleries. Her dealers included: Ferargil Galleries (1935); Maynard Walker Gallery (1936-1950); Associated American Artists Gallery (1940-1946); and World House Galleries, New York (1957-1968). She also regularly exhibited in Woodstock at Rudolf Galleries.

Doris Lee’s 1930s work was executed in a style that accepted traditional principles of form, volume, depth, and color. As Lee became interested in folk art in the 1940s, as well as Chinese art and poetry, she began to reduce forms to the two dimensional and ignore accepted principles of depth in perspective, as well as realism in volume and color. Her 1950s work offers a reduced composition of bold forms as seen in her Vine Series, a simple composition of oval shapes along a line which developed from observing a vine grow from an avocado pit. American folk art was a native source of inspiration in Lee’s painting. As an early collector of folk and Pre-Columbian art, Lee found the simplified forms and flattened decoration of these arts helpful in her pursuit of fusing abstraction and realism. Lee’s work is both intimate and charming because of her sophisticated yet innocent touch.

Painting during the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II in the 1940s, Doris Lee aimed to lift her viewers’ hearts and minds to a better world by reminding them of life’s pleasures. Lee has retained a unique position in American art as her work is accessible – evoking highly personal responses from viewers – and remains wholly modern.

The exhibition is on view at D. Wigmore Fine Art through November 10, 2010.

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